by J.T. Toth
Photo courtesy of LSU Reveille.
At Draft 412, the NFL draft talk never ends. We will keep you ready for the next set of gridiron stars—from today and all the way until draft night 2024. We will bring you mock drafts, player profiles, individual team needs, and everything else you may need related to the 2024 NFL Draft.
Today’s Spotlight - LSU, Defensive Line, Maason Smith
Name- Maason Smith
Pos- Defensive Line
HT/WT- 6’6” 315 lbs.
Home – Houma, Louisiana
At Terrebonne High School in Houma, Louisiana, Smith was considered the no. 1 defensive line prospect in the country by Rivals. He was a 5-star recruit by Rivals and 247Sports. He was a dominant high school player who recorded over 200 tackles, 60 tackles for loss, and 26 sacks in his career. He earned a spot on the All-American Bowl roster and elected to commit to LSU.
As a freshman, Smith played in 9 games, starting 4 times and was productive, leading to him being named to the 2021 Freshman All-American team. He finished the season collecting 19 tackles, 5 tackles for a loss and 4 sacks.
Last season, Maason Smith had big expectations and was the starter at defensive tackle in the season opener vs. Florida State, but that all came crashing down quickly as he suffered a knee injury in the first quarter and was lost for the season.
Bouncing back from injury, Smith has started the first 6 games and has 12 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and 1 sack so far for the Tigers.
Maason Smith has the versatility to line up anywhere on the defensive line and be a productive cog in the unit. He has played both nose tackle and defensive end and moves around to take advantage of matchups. He has an explosive first step he uses as an interior defensive lineman to gain the upper hand on his opponent. He has the speed and power to bull rush and has a non stop motor, so if you are blocking Smith, your job is not over until the whistle blows. He has the closing ability of a linebacker and can make plays all over the field, sideline-to-sideline. He has the skills and strength to be a run stopper up the middle or an edge-sealer, making him a very valuable asset.
Bruce Feldman’s Freaks List features Smith at #12. He wrote “The former five-star recruit is one of the most gifted players in college football. In the offseason, Smith hit 19.5 mph on the GPS and can touch 11 feet in his standing vertical jump.”
On the downside, if Smith’s initial burst off the snap fails, he tends to struggle with his power at the point of contact with blockers and his strength is too inconsistent to win one-on-one battles. At times, he can over hustle and actually take himself out of a play, causing him to over commit to play actions and misdirections. There are plays where Smith seems to get his pads too high and loses his leverage against his opponent. He has had injury concerns (including missing 2022) and NFL doctors will have to do their due diligence on him.
Though he won’t go quite as high in the first round as Leonard Williams did in 2015, Smith compares in style of play and what he can bring to an NFL team. Williams has had a solid NFL career and has totaled 467 tackles and 38.5 sacks in his 9 year NFL career. Both players came out of college with the versatility to play anywhere on the defensive line and Draft 412 thinks Smith will follow Williams and become a defensive tackle in the NFL.
Explosion off snap
Hand use in battles
Pads too high at times
Maason Smith is a player with the athleticism and non-stop motor to do some big things at the NFL level. His injury history is a concern but once an NFL team clears him, a likely first round pick is in his cards.
Draft 412 Draft Prediction - Round 1